Using AI Resources to Treat Fish Diseases

Using “Artificial Intelligence” resources to treat fish diseases

With the development and release of ChatGPT in 2022, “AI” as an informational resource is becoming more commonplace. This term is in quotes because the current methods are not true Artificial Intelligence. Instead, what the process does is scan the Internet to come up with some consensus as to the best answer for your question. The trouble is, polling the Internet does not always result in accurate information. “Garbage in – Garbage out” (GIGO) is an old computer term that applies here. If inaccurate information is widely available on the Internet, the answers that these AL engines produce will reflect that. Note that GIGO is not confined to machine learning; it is also used to describe failures in human decision-making due to faulty, incomplete, or imprecise data.

Fish disease issues are often multivariate, that is, they develop (and must be remediated by) more than a single question or answer. Asking the wrong question has huge ramifications with “AI”. If you ask how “to treat marine ich”, but your fish actually have a different disease, the answer given will not solve the problem.

“Error with confidence” from a source that is thought to be an authority can cause people to accept the information given without giving much critical thought to it.

Some people use Large Language Models (LLM) like ChatGPT to write text, which they then submit as their own on online forums. In some cases, the person is just trying to supply good information, other times, they may be attempting to overcome some deficiency they have in writing English, or in their knowledge of the subject itself.

In a recent Reef2Reef poll, members were asked about their experiences with AI to provide information about their aquariums:

79% - have not used AI for their aquariums
12% - have used AI and gotten partially accurate answers
8% - reported that AI provided incorrect information
5% - reported that AI failed to produce useful information

ChatGPT was asked, “How do you treat Amyloodinium in marine aquariums?”:

Bold text is the reason that given information was incorrect.


Amyloodinium, also known as "marine velvet" or "coral fish disease," is a parasitic dinoflagellate that can infect marine fish, causing a variety of symptoms including lethargy, rapid breathing, loss of appetite, and a visible gold or rust-colored dusting on the fish's skin.(this is not always seen) If you suspect your fish have been infected with Amyloodinium, here are the steps you can take to treat the disease:

Isolate Infected Fish: If possible, move the infected fish to a separate quarantine tank. (no – all fish exposed must be treated) This will help prevent the spread of the parasite to other healthy fish in the main tank.

Raise Temperature: Amyloodinium is sensitive to temperature changes. Gradually raising the temperature of the quarantine tank to around 86-88°F (30-31°C) can speed up the lifecycle of the parasite and make it more susceptible to treatment. (No – this just lowers the oxygen levels and speeds up the progress of the infection)

Use Copper Treatment: Copper-based medications are commonly used to treat Amyloodinium infections. Copper solutions are available at most aquarium supply stores. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for dosing and duration carefully, as copper can be toxic if not used correctly. Monitor the copper levels in the water using a test kit and adjust as needed.

Diminish Lighting: Amyloodinium can photosynthesize, (No – this species of dinoflagellate does NOT photosynthesize!) and reducing light in the quarantine tank can help weaken the parasite. Covering the tank or dimming the lighting can create a less favorable environment for the parasite.

Maintain Water Quality: Proper water quality is crucial during treatment. Ensure good filtration, regular water changes, and keep an eye on ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. Medications can stress fish and compromise their immune systems, so clean water will aid in their recovery.

Improve Nutrition: Provide the infected fish with high-quality foods rich in vitamins and nutrients to boost their immune systems and aid in their recovery.(Questionable – this disease hits so quickly that diet change does not come into play)

Monitor and Retreat: Keep a close eye on the fish's condition and monitor for improvements. Depending on the severity of the infection, you may need to repeat the copper treatment or try alternative medications if the initial treatment is not successful.

Hyposalinity Treatment: In some cases, lowering the salinity (specific gravity) of the quarantine tank to about 1.009-1.010 can be effective against Amyloodinium. (Totally wrong – Amyloodinium thrives in brackish water) However, this approach should be done with caution and under the guidance of an experienced aquarium professional, as it can stress fish and other organisms in the tank.

Remember that treating Amyloodinium can be challenging, and there is no foolproof method. (A properly performed copper treatment will work). Prevention is key to avoiding infections. Quarantining new fish before adding them to the main tank, maintaining good water quality, and avoiding stressors can help prevent outbreaks of this parasite. If you're unsure about how to proceed, consider consulting with a knowledgeable aquarium expert or veterinarian who has experience with marine fish diseases.

ChatGPT was asked, “How does ChatGPT solve aquarium fish disease problems?”:

ChatGPT, as a text-based AI model, does not have the capability to physically solve or treat aquarium fish diseases. Treating fish diseases requires hands-on actions, knowledge, and expertise in aquatic biology, water chemistry, and fish health. Here's how ChatGPT can assist with aquarium fish diseases:

  1. Information and Advice: ChatGPT can provide information about common aquarium fish diseases, their symptoms, causes, and possible treatments. It can offer general advice on how to prevent and manage these diseases, such as maintaining proper water quality, quarantine procedures, and basic care guidelines.
  2. Identifying Symptoms: You can describe the symptoms your fish are exhibiting, and ChatGPT can help identify potential diseases based on the information you provide. However, it's important to consult with an experienced aquarist or a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.
  3. Prevention Tips: ChatGPT can offer tips on preventing diseases in your aquarium, such as proper tank maintenance, quarantine procedures for new fish, and choosing healthy fish from reputable sources.
  4. Medication and Treatment Information: It can provide information about common medications and treatments used for fish diseases. However, it's crucial to consult with an aquatic veterinarian or experienced aquarist for specific treatment recommendations and dosages.
  5. General Care Advice: ChatGPT can offer advice on maintaining a healthy aquarium environment, including water quality, temperature, filtration, and nutrition, which can help prevent diseases.
In conclusion. ChatGPT summed deficiencies about its own use quite well:

Remember that while ChatGPT can provide valuable information and guidance, it should not replace professional advice from experienced aquarists or aquatic veterinarians when it comes to diagnosing and treating specific fish diseases. If you suspect your fish are ill, it's best to seek the expertise of someone with hands-on experience in aquarium fish health and disease management.
About author
Jay Hemdal
Jay Hemdal has kept aquarium fish since he was four. He set up his first marine aquarium in 1968 when he was nine years old. He later worked part time for many years at various local retail pet stores and fish wholesale companies while he was living at home and then during college. After graduating from college with a degree in aquatic biology, he managed the aquarium department of a large retail pet store for five years until 1985, when he was hired as an aquarist/diver (and later department manager) for a large public aquarium. In 1989, he accepted the position of curator of fishes and invertebrates for another public aquarium, where he remains today. Jay has written over 200 articles and papers as well as seven books since 1981.

Jay has also written for the following publications.

Advanced Aquarist Magazine
Aquarium Fish International
Aquarium Frontiers
Comparative Parasitology
Drum and Croaker
Freshwater and Marine Aquarium
International Zoo Yearbook
Journal of Aquariculture and Aquatic Sciences
North American Journal of Aquaculture
Progressive Fish-Culturist
Today's Aquarist
Tropical Fish Hobbyist
Zoo Biology

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Jay Hemdal
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